Humans of Tompkins Square Park

NEW YORK- 10/21/2017

A nice evening in Tompkins Square Park, on October 20th, a group of men was singing under a big tree. The weather was quite pleasant, and east-siders were having a lovely night. Even though it is 7 pm, the sky gets dark early. This park has an exact square shape, two playgrounds, a handball court, chess tables, a basketball court, and a memorial in it. And as always in New York, many dogs cross the park, which makes it great for dog-watching! The park is hosting its annual Halloween parade for dogs on October 21st this year. Before dogs, let’s meet the humans of Tompkins Square Park.

There is a men group of four, sitting and singing. One of them was laying down on the bench, smoking a cigarette. He had a yellow hat on him, and he was probably falling asleep while smoking. He was dressed like a homeless man, not sure if he is. “One Love” was playing in the background.

The second man was crossing his legs and had weird glasses on his head. He had no shoes and was quiet. He seemed happy where he was. But still, the whole time, he did not say a single word or moved any muscles until he left 20 minutes after I arrived.

Third one never even stood up. He had sweatpants and a thermos in his hand. He had pink glasses on him, and he spoke very loudly. “Leather and Lace” started playing. The man began to roar. He was so happy that he sang all the songs that were playing by our fourth guy, who had a music set on his bike.

The fourth men left with his bike, which had an American flag and many accessories on it. The bike was where the music was coming from, and when he left, the park got quite. Now the only voices were coming from the same men talking, and from the dog leashes. What they said barely made sense, and it was all mumbling and laughing. Trying to listen and understand was not successful.

While I kept writing this article, fourth men came again on his bike. “Riders on the Storm” was playing. He sat down. They started singing, and the one who was not speaking fell to the ground from laughing. It was an exciting day in the park, I thought. But also, they looked like this is their everyday life. And today, we are only a small part of the people of the park.

The woman sitting next to me had his mathematics homework open on his laptop. She had St. John’s University sweatshirt on her. She looked like she needed help since she stared at the same page for hours. A wind surprisingly blows, considering the warm weather that day, and the tree shakes with it. I learn that three big trees that we all are sitting under are the oldest trees in the park.

There are young boys sitting near me. They were talking in French and interestingly spoke about Turkey. They didn’t know that I was able to understand them. They had beers in hand, and they were probably around 18. Half an hour later, they went to the other side of the park to talk to two other same-age girls sitting, and I saw them leave the park couple of hours later together.

A boy passed with his long basketball shirt, big backpack, and basketball. He was spinning and turning, doing tricks with the ball in hand. He was alone, probably heading back to home from playing basketball on the court that is behind me. “Roadhouse Blues” started playing.

A long-haired 20-something-year-old boy passed in front of me reached to the men playing the music. He put his bag next to them. He starts to practice his tricks on his skateboard. Now, the third man stood up with his beer in hand and began to teach the long-haired boy how to skate.

Since its beginnings in the 19th century, Tompkins Square Park has served as a place for locals to meet, eat, play music, and do sports but also to voice dissent. Demonstrations in 1857 and 1875 about the lack of jobs and the poor economy gave way to residents’ protests about gentrification in the 1980s and 1990s on this park. Since the creation of this park, it has been a home for many.





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